While living in South Africa in 2003/2004, I had the experience of doing some volunteer work for a children’s orphanage in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg. The township of Soweto has over 1 million people, and an estimated HIV/AIDS rate of over 40%.
The experience proved to be both difficult and inspirational. It was extremely tough to comprehend a situation where children are brought into this world already infected with HIV, abondoned at birth, and in all likelihood would not live to see their 14th birthday. And yet, it was incredibly inspiring to be around them and to have the pleasure of watching them being able to still be the kids they are.
What really struck me about these kids was the way in which they treated each other. For one, they shared EVERYTHING. I remember bringing in a box of cookies just as we were about to start a friendly soccer match. I started to hand out the cookies to some of the kids standing close by on our team, and without a moment’s hesitation, one of the kids gently took the box from me, ran over to the other team and distributed cookies. He then made his way back over to our side, and distributed the rest of the cookies till they were all gone. Unfortunately, that means he was left with none for himself but he didn’t seem the least bit concerned and wore quite a radiance about his face. I smiled a sheepish smile; I was terribly embarrassed at myself for not doing what he did first, and blown away by his innate impulse to share so automatically.
Sometimes it is the things you notice but cannot explain which impress you the most. These kids had a magic to them. They didn’t attach a sense of entitlement to anything in their lives whether it be food, a roof over their heads, or the chance to play a simple game. I got to know kids that have been through horrors I can’t even begin to imagine, and they still smiled and laughed more than any group of people I’ve ever met. As I watched them in wonder, I felt small and confused about the sense of entitlement the first world had raised me with. The embarrassing feeling I had on the soccer field that day is one I experienced several times over in my time working with them- and one that has since never left me.
The other thing that was inspiring was to witness all the hard work that the charity staff were doing to make living for these children as normal as possible and for as long as possible. I learned very quickly how tight the operating budgets were for these orphanages. Funds to cover basic needs including food, clothing, blankets, and toys were always in great need. While on their own these are not great costs, the lack of availability of such funds and the large number of children that need care made every day a challenge. It became very clear quickly that a little bit of help could go a long way.
Since returning from South Africa, the idea of doing something for these kids brewed constantly. In the last year, after a more concerted effort and plenty of discussions with several other people looking to help, the idea has came to life. Now in 2009, Lickpenny Loafer has partnered with the Innovations for Humanity network to create the 1st Annual MUSIC FOR HOPE Benefit Concert for orphan children living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
The benefit concert is being done for the Cotlands Charity based out of Soweto in Johannesburg, SA and as a result all net proceeds from the event will go directly to Cotlands. For more info, please visit www.cotlands.org.
We want you to join us for an awesome night of great live music, dancing (a special guest dJ), door prizes, and overall fun that will in turn contribute to a very important cause.
MUSIC FOR HOPE is ultimately about doing our part to help others in whatever way possible. I am proud to be Canadian and part of a country that has countless individuals constantly making an effort to raise awareness and funds for the needs of others. Whether it’s climbing the CN tower, doing a 10K run, or putting on a fundraiser, there are so many Canadians who try and do their part. When we do, we find that a little goes a very long way.